Expected Council Action
In October, South Africa is planning to convene a debate on “Peace and security in Africa: the centrality of preventative diplomacy, conflict prevention and resolution.” A Council product, such as a presidential statement, is a possible outcome of the meeting.
Key Recent Developments
On 27 February, during the presidency of Equatorial Guinea, the Council held an open debate under the agenda item “Cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations: Silencing the Guns in Africa” on how the AU and UN could cooperate to end conflict in Africa. Equatorial Guinea convened the open debate to address several questions on AU-UN cooperation, such as how to preserve achievements and strengthen tools to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. The open debate featured briefings by Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo; AU High Representative for Silencing the Guns in Africa Ramtane Lamamra; and the founder and executive director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), Vasu Gounden. During the meeting, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2457, which encouraged the UN and AU “to strengthen their efforts to coordinate their engagement” and called on the Secretary-General, in consultation with the AU Commission Chairperson, to provide updates “when appropriate” on the status of implementation measures towards enhancing the UN’s support of the AU.
The Council held a briefing on “Conflict prevention and mediation” on 12 June at the initiative of Kuwait during its presidency of the Council. In addition to Secretary-General António Guterres, the briefers were Mary Robinson and Ban Ki-moon, the chair and deputy chair, respectively, of The Elders, a diverse and independent group of global leaders working to promote peace and human rights. Guterres and Robinson emphasised the role of women in conflict prevention. (See section below on Women, Peace and Security.) Robinson also said that efforts to address climate change should be part of a comprehensive approach to conflict prevention, while highlighting the “urgent need to develop global norms and rules around cyberconflict prevention”. Ban noted that when the Council is unified it can have a strong deterrent effect; he also spoke about the importance of regional institutions in promoting cooperation between states and the need for denuclearisation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In November 2018, the ten elected Council members (Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland and Sweden) and the five incoming members (Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa) conducted an ambassadorial-level démarche to Secretary-General António Guterres to request early warning/situational awareness briefings from the Secretariat. While held discreetly in the Secretariat in past years, such briefings had lapsed. So far this year, apparently in response to the démarche, two such informal meetings have been held with Security Council members: on 5 March, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo discussed the general theme of elections with members, and on 21 June Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas Miroslav Jenča spoke with members about Central American issues. Permanent Representatives, their deputies or the political coordinator, with one additional diplomat, represented missions at these meetings.
Women, Peace and Security
During the 12 June briefing, the Secretary-General called inclusive sustainable development “one of the most effective tools we have to prevent conflict”. He emphasised the importance of integrating women’s rights and gender equality across the UN’s prevention and mediation work. He further pointed out that “progress on women’s participation in formal peace processes is still lagging” and stressed that the UN “will continue to use creative strategies to advance women’s participation”. Mary Robinson, in her statement, also made that point, saying that she had “felt for a long time that insufficient attention has been paid to the role and voice of women on the ground in terms of conflict prevention”, calling upon the Security Council to “redouble its collective efforts to make sure that women’s perspectives and experiences are reflected in the mainstream of peacekeeping and conflict prevention policy”. She argued that neglecting women’s potential exacted a high price on countries affected by conflict.
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is how the Council (and the UN system more broadly) can work most effectively with the AU and sub-regional bodies to prevent and contain conflicts in Africa. In this regard, consideration could be given to ways of strengthening the Council’s efforts to support the good offices of the Secretary-General and his representatives in Africa, as well as to others engaged in mediation activities on the continent.
The Council might also consider pursuing a presidential statement encouraging the Secretary-General’s good-offices efforts, highlighting the mediation work of the UN’s regional offices in Africa (the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel and the UN Regional Office for Central Africa), and requesting the Secretary-General, in consultation with the AU Commission, to provide recommendations for how the Council could strengthen cooperation with the AU and sub-regional bodies in Africa with regard to preventive diplomacy.
Alternatively, if there is limited interest among Council members in a formal product, South Africa could consider producing a presidential summary of the meeting that is then circulated as a UN document.
Another option is for the Council to hold an informal interactive dialogue with UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs officials and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smaïl Chergui to strategise on ways to build synergies between the mediation structures in the UN system on the one hand and the AU on the other.
It could also be an option for Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita or another senior UN official to engage informally with members in an early warning/situational awareness meeting on potential crisis situations in Africa and discuss how the Council could most effectively address them.
Most Council members emphasise the importance of conflict prevention and mediation at the thematic level. However, the Council continues to struggle to play a meaningful role in preventing or resolving many African conflicts, whose intractability often stems from the involvement of several national and international stakeholders with varying agendas. Nonetheless, political divisions and different understandings of state sovereignty among members, especially the veto-wielding permanent members, tend to hinder Council action in cases where national interests could be involved or where there are disagreements about the tools to be employed.
Some members may use the debate as an opportunity to express their views on issues that may be discussed later in the month at the annual joint informal seminar and consultative meeting (23-24 October in Addis Ababa) between members of the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council, including, for example, the “Silencing the Guns in Africa” initiative and the financing of AU peace operations.
UN Documents on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa
|Security Council Resolutions|
|27 February 2019S/RES/2457||This was a resolution adopted during a meeting on “Cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security”.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 June 2019S/PV.8546||The Security Council held a briefing on “Conflict prevention and mediation”.|
|27 February 2019S/PV.8473||This was a high-level open debate on “Silencing the guns in Africa”.|